A Year of Polarities

At High Mowing, ninth grade students observe and experience the world directly. In a year when feelings can be all consuming, freshmen are gently and intentionally directed towards objectivity.  Students are encouraged to practice close, accurate observation and clear recollection in various contexts. This innovative approach, which addresses the 14-year-old’s need to reconcile the world’s complexities while making sense of their own feelings takes place within a carefully constructed year-long series of required intensive multidisciplinary block classes, and are augmented by skill-building tracks, required studio art, and farm and forest courses and electives.
Ninth graders tend to experience the world in black and white.  Things are either horrible or fabulous.  They may love and hate their friends in the same moment.  But as they navigate these storms of emotion, they also enter a new world of abstract and analytical thinking.  Our ninth-grade block classes are intentionally designed to stimulate this positive development while recognizing the developmental state of the 14-year-old mind.  Through a curriculum that focuses on the study of polarities, they see their inner experiences reflected in the world around them.  In the Geology-Earth Science block, students examine the collision of continents.  In Thermodynamics, they study the effects of warming and cooling.  In the study of the American and French revolutions, they learn what happens when new nations declare their independence (much as the students themselves are doing!).  Students experience the range of emotions in the Comedy and Tragedy literature block, from the total despair of the Greek tragedies to the hilarity of French farce.  

From the beginning, students are called upon to exercise powers of precise observation and recollection.  Honing these abilities strengthens the ninth graders’ core academic capacities and sharpens an essential life skill. In science blocks, they must accurately record and recall experiments and demonstrations.  In Studio Arts they draw in black and white, discovering the magic of contrast. In the History through Art block, they are trained in fine observation. What effect does a red robe on a figure have on our emotions?  How has the artist directed our eye to a certain part of a painting?  What does the composition tell us about the artist’s intention?  Throughout the curriculum, the question is, “What do you see?”  

In addition to the innovative core program, the students’ experience is augmented by our three unique signature programs, which take place in the studios, on stage, and in the forests and fields. In these places they learn how to be at home in nature, to create, and to tend to and harvest in our garden, becoming stewards of our world and its culture.
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